Today begins Week Three of the second draft project, and I must say, I am ready to get down to business. It is dark and stormy here, I’ve had my latte, and my ideas have exploded over the past week. (Guess I should probably add, they’ve exploded in a good way. Not exploded, as in, Oh no, now I have a load of worthless junk all over me.)
Last week, I faced – and duly overcame – a dilemma. During week one, I was focused on getting words on the paper. I started fresh, and was productive. Then, somewhere around chapter three, I started thinking, Hmmm…This looks suspiciously like my first draft, except for the first scene.
I love seeing how this writing process unfolds. The first draft, I wrote straight through, with no outline and no backward glances as I went. When I finished, it felt fresh and like a good foundation, but it lacked depth and solid roots. Letting my mind empty on the page provided a wealth of characters and ideas.
The second draft, though, is not (only) about new ideas – it’s about sifting through the first draft, making sense of themes and adding dimension to characters, which then add credibility to the plot and actions therein. While my first draft was highly unplanned and free, I fear my novel will never see cohesive, powerful completion if I do not pay meticulous attention to detail. Hence the second draft process: clearing clutter, narrowing in on the important stuff, and loads of charts, lists, and outlines in place so I can write a focused draft.
So, I pushed pause. Being a numbers-driven individual, it was hard to step aside from my nifty (and beautiful) word-count-tracking-spreadsheet-extraordinaire. I focused instead on the character arcs I’ve developed over the past few months, which are much more rich than they were in the first draft. I crafted a scene chart, which is basically a bunch of color-coded blocks on a spreadsheet, linked by arrows, and functions as a less-wordy outline of sorts (obviously, I’m feeling a bit more loquacious this week due to my charty, non-wordiness last week…). I worked my way through my notes, section by section, laying out the scenes I definitely need to make those delicious character transformations happen. Right on schedule, Friday afternoon, I finished it.
It was torturous to wait all weekend to move forward, but I told myself the rest would be a good catalyst to a week of great work. Now, here I am, Monday morning – so ready to expand those scene-blurbs into full chapters. I think I have a good structure in place so I can write freely through the scenes, and not waste time on the unnecessary.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, writers, on your experiences. Do you like outlines? Do they hold you back or free you up?
PS: Finally saw Harry Potter. Loved it, though there were some liberties they took with the story. Those don’t bother me enough to think the whole movie was ruined. It was visually exciting and the plot was mainly kept in tact.
PPS: Yes, that is Remy the Cat, at the desk where all my creativity happens. I kicked him out of my chair, and now he’s snoring on the bed behind me.